Obscuras, Illumino

My already paranoid, hypochondriac little sister has come into an anti-illuminati kick as of late. At first, it was funny; my cousin and I laughed it off as another of her weird phases (like astrology and vegetarianism), but it’s starting to get kind of annoying since she’s begun bringing up online discussion boards that point out how artists like Rihanna and Lady Gaga are agents of a Satanic cult and fill their videos with subliminal imagery designed to corrupt souls. I’m not a staunchly anti-religious person, but my skin crawls a bit when she crosses herself after a perceived slight against the man upstairs. After I tricked her into taking a personality quiz that told her she was in the Illuminati (sort of a sorting hat deal for this online action game), her reaction convinced me to check out one of these sites denouncing Gaga and the Illuminati. As I’d expected, it was pretty much bunk that was simply bashing on Gaga for being weird for weirdness’ sake. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with striving to be different from everyone else; it’s the people who’ll do anything to be normal that cause more trouble, the way I see it. If Gaga wants to wear horns or push the “All-Seeing Eye” in her videos, that’s her business; it isn’t hurting anyone, nor does it have the capacity to hurt anyone. “All art is at once surface and symbol” says Oscar Wilde and even if these supposed masonic or Illuminati images have seeped into our culture, whatever symbolism they may have held in the past is up for grabs now; they may suggest completely different concepts to people that view them now, in which case, even if someone were trying to get them out there as much as possible, whatever their original plan was is all but washed away now.

And, while I don’t particularly believe that there is any such thing as the Illuminati anymore, so what if there were? People’s fear of such an organization would essentially be an extension of their hatred for elitism and I think that hatred is a mistake to begin with. There’s hardly any difference between a secret society and a religion – either concept can be used to do good or do harm, a secret religion would just not go around injecting itself into every conversation (like those annoying born-agains do).

And, in any case, wasn’t the original Illuminati a society that endeavored to push radical concepts of art and science instead of just blindly following the tenets of a church that outright refused to see reason? That sounds to me like something that even the modern world could use, with all the religious intolerance and backward-mindedness running rampant across the globe.

I mean, I’m not really much of a conspiracy theorist, but I’ve always liked the idea of a secret society, either as a serpentine enemy to be stamped out by an underground resistance or as a powerful movement trying to force positive change through surreptition (I don’t care; surreptition SHOULD be a word) and I feel like the Illuminati – if they did exist – would be the latter. If that’s the case, I’d want to be a part of it – contribute to moving the world toward enlightenment. Such a concept is beyond religious tenets, beyond concepts of Satanism or sin – it is the ideal we should have been striving for ever since our inception as thinking beings. If public societies keep us down, then perhaps secret societies are necessary to move forward. I mean, at worst, the Illuminati is a group of high-powered bankers funding wars to fatten their own wallets and, honestly, that’d be one poorly-kept secret.

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First Flight: Pan Am (ABC, 2011)

I wish the sun really looked like this.

I wish the sun really looked like this.

Though I don’t usually pay any mind to the new live action drama series that come on with every new season, I suppose there are a number of eccentric reasons that ABC’s Pan Am caught my eye.

The film Catch Me If You Can (starring Leo DiCaprio) is one of my favorite movies and had a fair bit in common with Pan Am – 1960s style, air travel-based intrigue involving classic Cold War era  “G-men” and that delicious blue logo. Yes, I like blue far too much to be allowed and the particular shade of blue that graces the show’s shiny globe-shaped title as well as the stewardess uniforms is probably scientifically geared to swell the flow of endorphins through my system. Additionally, glamorizations of the 1960s have begun catching my attention (due to an upcoming project of mine), so I’ve been thinking of the era a lot and I’ve been jumping at the chance to see anything that might pass as research. But, of course, Christina Ricci also played a big part in making sure I caught this show’s premiere; I adore her and will watch just about anything she’s in (and I’m sure most of you feel the same about America’s Dark Sweetheart).

So, I guess I’ll begin by saying that I was not disappointed. You’ll hear complaints going around about really crappy green screens and CGI planes (and, really, it’s all true; the special effects are pretty weak) but the writing, characterization and acting are all looking rather top notch in the first episode and the practical effects like physical set design, costumes and props are all on point as well, keeping the suspension of disbelief afloat so long as we’re not in the air.

The five stewardesses in question – Maggie, Laura, Kate, Colette and Bridget – are all pretty interesting (and easy on the eyes), but of course what makes their characters is how they react to the situations in which they find themselves.  I had hoped to see more of Maggie (Ricci) during the premiere, but it seems she’s probably been given the most solid position of the five and only appeared in scenes where she was supposed to display her “sure-footed, strong young single woman” attitude, which, in itself, is pretty interesting – especially when paired with Ricci’s famous “smart, cute brunette” looks – but compared to the craziness going on in the lives of the other four, her role makes me sort of hope that something unexpected and wild is coming in the character’s near future. Still, her high intelligence, professional carriage, invaluability to the company, responsibility as purser and caring nature make her the total package of not only modern womanhood, but also of personage. And when the least interesting character has all of that, it can mean good things for the rest of the show.

Laura (Margot Robbie) is a young newbie to Pan America’s stewardess program; unsure of how to conduct herself but eager to live the jetsetting life, she’s just about starstruck by the new experience, which is made all the more pressured by the fact that a candid photo of her in her new blue digs has unexpectedly graced the covers of TIME magazines worldwide. Her blond, mousy persona is cute enough, but not particularly deep; she’s basically there to act as the audience’s avatar, walking us through our own unfamiliarity with stewarding and air-travel. Her shining moment, however, was the flashback revealing that she ran away from home, escaping an unwanted “fairy tale wedding” being forced on her by her overbearing mother, to follow in her “cool” older sister Kate’s footsteps as a Pan American stewardess.

Next up is the French stewardess Colette Valois (Karine Varnasse) who seems every bit the sexy Frenchwoman stereotype, but Varnasse pulls off the role with a fair bit of grace and class, so Colette doesn’t come off as some sort of trollop. Moi, j’aime les Français, so I was glad to see a soeur on the show. Unfortunately, Colette’s in a bit of  a jam when she discovers that her recent fling is actually a married man with a son.

And now for the bomb. The aforementioned sister Kate (Kelli Garner) has what seems like the most on her plate; in addition to having to deal with her younger, prettier sister inadvertently muscling in on her territory, Kate’s been scouted by the CIA due to her intelligence and versatility as a globe-trotting Pan Am stewardess and her first assignment (no training wheels) is to surreptitiously exchange the forged passport of an enemy spy flying to London for a less-believable forgery so as to have him detained at customs, right under the noses of her fellow crewmembers, other passengers and, of course, the scary foreign target himself without being noticed or caught.

While all the varying storylines are pretty interesting, it’s the one revolving around Kate that I found the most engaging and I suspect may compose the bulk of the series’ return factor unless the others get into some adventurous shenanigans as well. Leaving aside Maggie and Laura’s stories, which were both rather simple and have therefore pretty much already been explained, it was a bit heart-wrenching to watch Colette deal with the fact that her lover was already a family man. While suddenly meeting his wife and young son on the flight was little damaging enough that a bit of cold professionalism allowed her to put the matter (and the man) behind her, his wife’s sudden friendliness and the admiration of his little boy put Colette in a bit of an awkward spot.

While the first act (on the ground in New York) set up the story with a great deal of energy and liveliness and the second act (in the air on the way to Heathrow) provided all the tension and suspense, it’s certainly the third act (in London) that drops the real bombs and piques my appetite for more with some promising story threads and great writing (naturally in the form of mouth-watering quotes. Yes, I’m easily manipulated).

As the flight lands and Colette parts with her secret lover’s family on seemingly amicable terms, the wife feigns leaving her purse onboard just for the stinging opportunity to tell Mlle. Valois off in private. It hurt to watch and seemed a perfect example of 60s forced feminine composure on both sides.

As for Kate, it was particularly interesting/nerve-wracking to watch her finally fulfill her mission despite the target’s sharp eyes and cold demeanor (significantly moreso than watching her warm up to her sister) as well as seeing the flashback in which she’s unexpectedly contacted by the CIA. As a bit of a scaredy-cat myself, I doubt highly that I could have achieved her objective so smoothly (by which I mean would have pissed myself or started crying from fear at the very thought). But the real trip starts after the ship lands in London and Kate discovers that the scary target is actually an MI6 agent working with the CIA and that her “assignment” was merely a test of her skills – a test she has passed. As she’s officially brought on board as an agent in the Cold War, Kate learns that she was recommended for the job by the agent she’s replacing – the fifth stewardess, Bridget who, while appearing in several flashbacks, has been conspicuously missing since the start of the episode.

In a 90s sitcom-esque fashion, the pilots (Dean and Ted) and stewardesses all end the day gathering in a British pub to touch base and shake off the stress of the day’s adventures and it’s here that the episode hammered the final nail into my coffin with a pair of brilliant quotes. Fresh from her romantic tumble, Colette  summarizes the jetsetting life while also turning the last page of her finished chapter with, “Tomorrow, another plane takes off to someplace new. Vanished, today’s mistakes; their only trace a touch more wisdom.” Meanwhile, trying to vocalize his opinion of the Pan Am ladies as vanguards to a new age of evolved femininity, co-pilot Ted gives us, “D’you think that the first man to crawl out of the primordial ooze knew he was different? No. He just had an impulse that there was more to life than primordial ooze. See that table over there? That is natural selection at work, my friend. They don’t know that they’re a new breed of woman, they just had an impulse…to take flight.” 

With young, lovestruck pilot Dean’s fruitless search for Bridget making it rather clear that something is wrong and Kate’s sudden discovery that she’s taking over her friend’s dangerous mission, it seems sure that the mysterious Bridget – whose oft-mentioned temporary disappearances are finally explained – has been killed in action…until the very end of the episode, when she appears in the bar window to gaze longingly at Dean before silently climbing into  a black car that drives away.

All-in-all, quite enjoyable and I’m looking forward to the promise that this series holds. Episode 2 was a good bit more tame, as to be expected, but hopefully le troisième brings the action back up to cruising altitude.

(Yes, I’m posting my review of episode one on the day episode three is set to air; I have time-management issues, sue me.)

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Ahh, My Batman’s Back

Don't Call It a Comeback

You’ve heard me mention that I count Batman: The Animated Series as the finest example of American animated television and I stand by that. I’m a big anime fan, but I solemnly believe that BTAS is good enough to be matched against any Japanese series as a representative of what writers and animators here in the States can do. I thought for sure that my future worship of this magnificent masterpiece would be relegated to the DVDs I plan to buy from Amazon, but fortunately, the Dark Knight returns to cable television today. Starting the Tuesday after Labor Day, the new syndication channel HUB (already famous for the propagation of the runaway cult plague My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic) will be playing episodes of Batman: The Animated Series every weekday at 4pm Central Time (with replays at 6 pm and midnight) beginning with the brilliant pilot “On Leather Wings” before moving to the two-part “The Cat and the Claw” and the award-winning “Heart of Ice” on Friday. I’ve got my DVR set and I advise you all to do the same.

Still, it got me thinking about DVD boxsets and my preferences regarding them. They really are a marketing godsend; I’m greatly looking forward to the day when I won’t need to watch any of the contemporary shows that pass for “television” because I’ll have a few bookshelves full of anime and 1990s cartoons. But, even so, there seems to be a point in just about every series where the title jumps the shark and viewers old and new alike are better off quitting. Having once rented season one of Batman: TAS (for a college paper on film noir), I had intended to buy them all as soon as they were out and I had the scratch to spare. But, as I researched them further, it became apparent to me that the cheapened animation shift in the series that I so disliked even in my youth occurred in the fourth boxset – so I decided then and there that I would be perfectly content only buying the first three. It may sound harsh to the DVD suppliers who thought so much of us as to grant us a chance to watch these classics without the aid of syndicated cable channels, but I really don’t need or want to watch any of the later seasons when the noir/art deco feel was swapped out in favor the less expensive animation used for shows like the 1990s Superman cartoon.

I even feel this way about certain anime series (though not necessarily for the same reasons). Dragon Ball is an unparalleled classic that I adore to the depths of my heart, but I have some objections to the Buu saga (despite having enjoyed it as much as anyone else), and so – even after obsessively picking up the original boxsets of DB and DBZ (skipping DB Kai and the Dragon Boxes, ’cause honestly…even I don’t need THAT much Dragon Ball), I stopped buying or caring as soon as I had the Cell Games Saga. And, though I believe Naruto‘s storyline remains coherent all the way up until the end of the Hidan/Kakuzu arc, the frequently crappy animation and rampant filler arcs ofNaruto Shippuden compelled me to stop collecting the series at episode 135, completely ignoring everything that came after the official end of Part 1. I guess as far as I’m concerned, the Naruto anime ends on a cliffhanger. Anyone who knows me in real life is aware of my worship of Mobile Suit Gundam, but even after painstakingly purchasing each DVD of the original series (ironically finishing just before the announcement of a full-series boxset to be released later this month ><” ) as well asGundam 0080Gundam: 08th MS TeamChar’s Counterattack and Zeta Gundam, I decided that I really don’t care about Gundam ZZ or the new Gundam Unicorn series. I’ve got season 2 of Rurouni Kenshin on DVD, but couldn’t care less about seasons 1 and 3. I suppose it really just comes down to money. I might have watched all these “extra” bits for free on television, but actually shelling out money for arcs I care nothing about seems a bit foolish to me.

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First Look: ThunderCats (2011)

I'm a ThunderCat, ho.Let me just start by saying that I almost never watched the original ThunderCats cartoon when it was on Toonami a decade ago. At the time, I was far too preoccupied with anime series like Dragon Ball Z and Gundam Wing to pay any mind to what seemed to me an inferior American cartoon. Still, I was aware of it and appreciative enough of its loyal and enthusiastic fanbase to respect its standing as an iconic piece of Americana and, as such, was just as skeptical as most when I heard earlier this year that it was getting a remake. These days, especially when it comes to great old American cartoons, “remake” has become a dirty word, since the oversaturation of cheaply-made, Flash-animated, cheesily-made crap has all but lost us our faith in Western Animation (after all, that new “Voltron” show is an outright abomination).

But my views shifted rather predictably when I saw the trailer that aired a few months ago, which showed a remarkably high animation quality and some really fluid action scenes (after all, these days, those are usually the first to go). And then, the rumors that Japanese Studio 4°C was involved, my interest turned to anticipation – an anticipation that was answered when the new ThunderCats premiered on Cartoon Network last weekend.

As expected, the animation does not disappoint; despite being animated in Japan, the heavy shading accented by gleaming highlights is reminiscent of classic American shows like Batman: The Animated Series and Gargoyles and the character designs make the best of modernization and nostalgia by updating the character to make them more likable while maintaining their classic personas. The emphasis these days has shifted from all-capable, bemuscled He-Men to lithe youngsters at the start of a long path fraught with obstacles and the new, younger Lion-O reflects that without making him a cheesy, stereotypical teen (like I fear the 2012 TMNT will do to April O’Neil).

And, speaking of characters, the voice-acting is pretty great as well. I was pleased (but not surprised) to learn that the Casting and Voice Director is the brilliant Andrea Romano, who has been behind just about every great cartoon series of the past twenty years and, having immediately recognized Will Friedle as the voice of Lion-O, I have great faith (supported by his respectable track record of consistently good voice-over work) that the new series’ principal character has some real talent behind the role. (Also, I’m pretty sure everyone prefers the new, voiceless, Pikachu-esque Snarf.)

The old-world vibe we’re treated to in Thundera’s smoky back alleys and stone castle walls makes me think that Cartoon Network wants this series to be their Avatar: The Last Airbender (which, at the very least, should mean that they’ll put up a decent amount of funding for animation and give the writers a greater-than-average amount of free reign) and the mystical-looking special effects used to accentuate combat movements and special attacks lends further credence to this idea. The setting is compelling – hinting at a much larger and complex world than just the ThunderCats’ base surrounded by encroaching enemies – and combines with the non-standard action (non-standard for Western action cartoons, anyhow) to draw the audience’s attention effectively, but I personally think the two biggest factors that the series has going for it so far are the conflict/affinity between mysticism and technology as well as the fact that the writing is clear enough to get its point across while also taking for granted that the viewers are intelligent enough to read between the lines.

The concept of a protagonist belonging to an otherwise noble race whose only sin is being overzealous and oppressive in its defense of its citizens and interests isn’t at all new, but (at least Stateside) it’s perhaps rarer in  youth-oriented shows than it should be. It’s never too early to let kids reason for themselves and understand that conflicts between peoples have more causes than just an all-powerful antagonistic force or an evil group of bloodthirsty subversives and Lion-O’s assertion that the “evil” clan of Lizards only attack the Cat clan for the sake of their children’s future well-being is a good start that suggests ThunderCats won’t be as simplistic a show as most. Additionally, I like that Tygra’s status as adopted brother to Lion-O is made clear through simple context clues rather than a lengthy and unnecessary explanation. Nor is the position of cleric given any clumsy exposition; those who would be fans of this series already know the term and younger viewers – perhaps unfamiliar with the word – are shown, rather than told, its rough definition.

I’ve always been a big fan of stories that mix technology and magic, either splicing them together or switching their roles and ThunderCats does it admirably – relegating technological items to the status of ancient legends or fairy tales while magic concepts like the Eye of Thundera and the Sword of Omens stand as basic societal tenets. And when the two concepts finally and inevitably clash, I found it quite interesting to see magic on the side of good (in the form of Jaga’s corps of warrior=clerics) while the villains take control of technology (in the form of digital bombs, rockets and walking mechs) instead of the other way around. It seems clear that Lion-O, with his magical upbringing but affinity for the technology he’d heard of as a lad, will stress melding the two schools as the series goes on.

My only real complaint so far is that I think Mumm-Ra was brought out too early in the series (especially since the following episode makes it quite clear that hunting him down is not going to be the ThunderCats’ primary focus). I mean, I understand that he was always the main antagonist, but his arrival came without any foreshadowing and tried to give off a dramatic and disastrous air that fit the bill aesthetically but didn’t really have any legs. Was he working with the Lizards and Grune in a three-way partnership? Was he just using the Lizards in a plot to regain his former power or were they just using him as a trump card against Lion-O’s father Claudus? The false decoy idea was a clever one, but their invasion of Thundera was going pretty well even before Mumm-Ra reared his decrepit face and Mumm-Ra didn’t really end up doing more than shedding some light on the Sword of Omens’ origins before the sunlight forced his ultimate retreat. If it were up to me (yeah, I know that it’s not and never will be), I’d have introduced him a few episodes down the line after more people had gotten the chance to speak of his infamous legend – maybe at a point where Grune and the Lizards foolishly decide to summon him in order to bolster their own power (hey, some clichés get to be clichés because they work so well). Having him show up and hog the last third of the premiere just made the episode seem rushed. Still, the villain’s torture of cleric/counselor Jaga in episode three certainly caught my interest for its perceived brutality, but I think that maybe a more surreptitious introduction may have served both the premiere and aforementioned scene better.

All in all, Lion-O’s more likable as a Will Friedle-voiced youngster, Cheetara’s ditched the leotard for a spunkier midriff-revealing number and the absence of Panthro suggests that his true introduction will be an impressive one. I’m looking forward to being derided as a “ThunderCats Ho”. (or is that a joke for the litterbox?)

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American Cheese: The First Avenger (Spoilers)

I’ve spent pretty much my entire adolescence and “adulthood” obsessed with anime, so American comics are a pretty new fascination for me and, after reading Marvel’s Civil War, the dynamic between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers is one of the concepts that interests me the most, even threatening to overtake my almost hive-minded love of Spider-Man (especially after the new remake’s teaser). So, of course, the instant the Iron Man films hinted at a larger Avengers universe, I was waiting with bated breath for Captain America to make his new silver screen debut. It didn’t at all hurt that all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been largely satisfying; I am not a fan of Hulk in the slightest and an avid misanthrope of little kids who adore Hulk for his strength and brutality, but 2008’s The Incredible Hulk (at least the first two thirds of it) is such a good sci-fi/fugitive film that I can’t help myself from watching it whenever it airs on cable. Thor is another of the classic Marvel heroes who doesn’t interest me at all (I always thought it odd that a universe centered around mutants and aliens and chemically-enhanced super-soldiers would randomly include a Norse god as a primary figure), but the Thor film that came out earlier this year is so remarkably done that it might even be my favorite so far. With Marvel’s track record going four for four, Captain America: The First Avenger was looking to be the latest in a lengthening string of mind-blowingly great movies.

However, while solid, The First Avenger doesn’t quite live up to its siblings’ reputation. It’s the first real origin story of the franchise since Iron Man (as Hulk begins in medias res and Thor’s powers are inborn), but rather than suggest that the acquisition of Steve Rogers’ powers bogs the movie down, I would argue that his journey from scrawny-but-scrappy Brooklyn “boy scout” to shield-wielding super-soldier is the most compelling and humanizing part of the film. I was initially put off by the size-reducing CG that was displayed in the trailers, but it didn’t bother me for long and only looks weird in scenes where little Steve is shirtless. It comes off as sort of cheesy when Dr. Erskine and Agent Carter try to convince Steve of his true worth, but Chris Evans’ portrayal of Rogers – especially during his exchanges with “Bucky” Barnes – gives off the vibe of watching an old-school WWII period piece rather than a ham-handed 90s superhero flick.

It’s a different story, however, when the scene shifts to follow the Red Skull’s exploits. The film opens with Johann Schmidt’s excursion to Norway (his brutal assault on the town sadly reminiscent of the Scandinavian nation’s recent tragedy) and, while HYDRA’s categorization as a Nazi science division ties the organization to a more realistic origin, their immediate procurement of the mysterious – and clearly mystical – power cube from the ending scene of Thor lets us know right off the bat that weird magical forces are going to be bleeding into our super-science. The Skull’s forces use weapons powered by the mystery cube’s energy, giving off an eerie blue glow and firing particularly devastating light rays (reminiscent of both Valkyria Chronicles‘ Ragnite and Watchmen‘s Dr. Manhattan) which appear to vaporize humans on contact and, honestly, the abundance of these laser guns in the film really tacks on a disappointingly cartoonish feel, like the violence of World War II has been sterilized by guns that leave no corpses behind.

The same can be said for Cap’s role as widely-accepted American hero. After the spectacular events of his transformation and Erskine’s assassination, the movie comes to a bit of a halt when Steve opts to become a cheesy costumed propagandist war mascot rather than a military lab rat. It’s understandable that this scene is used to strengthen Cap’s desire to become a real hero, but other than being worth some laughs, these scenes drain the film’s momentum and take time away from scenes that could have made the whole production much more impressive. And when he finally does come into his own as the real Captain America, most of the action is relegated to disconnected, wordless scenes of Cap and crew melodramatically storming into laser-guarded bases with the flying shield and Rogers’ fists serving as vanguard. Oh, and did I mention HYDRA’s traditional salute? It looks so comically ridiculous on screen that the entire theater laughed heartily whenever it was performed.

But, I think that’s enough out of me in the way of negativity, because the movie really did have a lot going for it. All of the actors performed their roles admirably and all of the jokes were on-point enough to keep the whole film rather lighthearted until the end. The appearances of Dum-Dum Dugan and the young Howard Stark were terrific crowd-pleasers and Bucky’s portrayal as a long-time friend and compatriot rather than a teenage sidekick gave a great deal more credence to the character. Agent Carter is quite the badass British bombshell and Hugo Weaving owns the Red Skull persona so completely that even the Skull’s freakish visage couldn’t break the audience’s suspension of disbelief. Steve’s scenes chasing down Erskine’s killer through New York and infiltrating the HYDRA internment camp in a makeshift suit (a makeshift suit that I personally think looked both more period-accurate and more badass than the bulky finished product) were fantastic displays of classic Marvel heroism. Even Cap’s annoying habit of knocking enemies out rather than killing them (Erskine’s killer commits suicide with a cyanide pill and even the Red Skull is done in by the Asgardian power cube rather than his Star-Spangled arch-nemesis) are offset by later scenes of his tossing HYDRA agents out of a plane and punching one right into a spinning propeller, which are both quite satisfying (or maybe I’m just sadistic).

The events of his freezing and awakening will surprise no one acquainted with Marvel lore, but are delivered with a sufficient amount of drama and tragedy (remember that, when the reawakening scene was first penned, few enough years had passed that Steve could conceivably have visited some of his old friends in their sunset days, but – with now roughly seventy years since WWII – there is decidedly no hope that any of them will have survived this long) that the invincible Rogers is once again humanized by the end of the film and the post-credits Avengers teaser (which, by now, just about everyone has seen on YouTube) whets our collective appetite for Steve’s next adventure with a glimpse of an updated and more awesome-looking Captain America suit.

All in all, Captain America: The First Avenger is a solid and enjoyable movie that earns its place in the Marvel Cinematic lexicon. That said, however, I, unfortunately, will probably not be buying it on DVD (sad because I’d looked forward to having Iron Man and Cap side-by-side on my shelf) but it’s good enough that I’ll likely be checking out out when HBO and FX decide to air it ad nauseum for the Fourth of July.

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Brazilian Women

Okay, before you start with the obvious “How does talking about women have anything at all to do with art or ideas”, let me state that the female form is absolutely a work of divine art and it definitely gives me ideas…

I didn’t want to follow up my initial pretentious post with something that suggests I’ll be moving on to more low-brow topics, but I did want to both introduce social subjects and get into the habit of blogging whatever is on my mind whenever it pops to the front of my brain and this is a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

During the Soccer World Cup a while back (not the most recent one, but still, congratulations, Japan!), everyone became reacquainted with how hot Brazilians are thanks to that image of the female fan in a loose-fitting top, which achieved nigh-viral status immediately. However, not caring at all about soccer myself, I forgot about it rather quickly. Now, though, the famous women who have been catching my eye over the past two weeks keep turning out to hail from Brazil and it’s the kind of coincidence that can lead a love-addicted guy to make certain assumptions about an entire group of people.

Leaving aside the unreasonably cute girl I know who once claimed to be part Brazilian, it was Morena Baccarin who first caught my eye. Watching her as Inara Serra on reruns of Firefly, I developed an immediate crush that was no doubt exacerbated by the news that she will be attending Chicago Comic Con in August (I am purposely giving up a day at the beach with my friends just for the slim chance of meeting her in person). Her paralytic pulchritude (go ahead, look it up) absolutely hypnotized me into looking up more information about her and, though her Brazilian citizenship was overshadowed by the video of her miraculous scene in Death in Love, I did manage to keep that little tidbit on file as I continued to wish that Inara’s shuttle could come visit me.

I’m not sure whether my search for more lovely shots of the narcotic Ms. Baccarin (but, speaking of narcotic, I realize now that she’d make such a brilliant Susan Rodriguez in a new film adaptation of The Dresden Files) led me to the next one, but I more or less stumbled upon the Brazilian model and telenovela star Daniele Suzuki, who is such a breathtaking sight with her Brazilian-Japanese heritage that I found myself completely obsessed with her for a few days and discovered that my ordinarily airy sighs of longing could take on an oddly comical guttural tone. She wrestles, too. Some kind of magical Brazilian bellatrix body-paint wrestling that made my nervous system extremely happy to watch.

Then (mind you, this all happened in a length of time spanning a little over a week), I had the chance to re-watch The Incredible Hulk (the 2008 reboot film, not the 2003 version, which was actually not as bad as everyone says) and was fortunate enough to once again lay my eyes on the drool-inducing minor character “Martina” (who is, by the way, far too steamily hot to think that changing her clothes next to an open window is in any way a good idea). My interest once again piqued, I decided to look her up as well; considering that the first third of the movie is set in Brazil, it wasn’t a surprise that the actress was, herself, Brazilian, but I did manage to discover that she was a famous Brazilian model. Débora Nascimento randomly formed the last third of the Brazilian goddess trifecta that had drawn in the entirety of my mind like some hungry thing out of The Twilight Zone (she glistens in Hulk, by the way. I mean, honest-to-God glistens) and her pictures do not to her graceful beauty justice.

With these three pervading my every thought, I have come to the conclusion that I really want to meet more Brazilian girls ’cause they’re really pretty. I had considered attending the next Olympics, but I don’t quite feel like getting stabbed in a foreign country. Why, I wonder, have I not met any Brazilian-Americans if both countries are so large and so close to one another? Hopefully this will change. Maybe a geeky Brazilian woman will come out of nowhere and into my life. Ah, my goddess, venha acima e veja-me alguma hora. (Yes, I babelfished it. You can probably reverse-decipher the reference if you can’t guess it.) Until then, though, I’m going to have to practice a non-creepy way to be starstruck at Comic Con…

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It was either W. Somerset Maugham or Oscar Wilde who said that “Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit” and it was Dorothy Sayers who said “I have a quote for everything; it saves original thought.” But whether it shows my intelligence or suggests to others a lack thereof, I love quotes.

I highlight lines in books, not so as to facilitate a return to a central argument or discussion topic, but rather to memorize the poignant things that writers have penned about life; my Dracula, The Alchemist and The Picture of Dorian Gray are all striped with dayglo yellow and I flip from inky sunbeam to inky sunbeam whenever I want my Facebook status to read something other than “oh god, why won’t she talk to me?” I have a twenty-page thread on the Adult Swim forums packed right to the rim with my favorite anime/manga quotes and am thinking of making a separate one for some of the more exhilarating lines from Doctor Who (’cause, damn, Ten and Eleven can turn a phrase).

I love quotes when they eloquently mirror something from my own life, look at something I already understand from a new perspective or drip with the kind of sensuous, malicious evil that poisons the mind and soul with black dreams of Luciferian grandeur. I love quotes when they refer to other quotes, illumine my own hidden emotions with poetic grace or allude to some far-off Great Day that will dawn and the light that fills the world. Reading them sends shivers up my spine and makes me absolutely giddy. I think that if I could just collect a quote for every single situation, my ability to quote would be a serviceable substitute for confidence.

I miss the days when books could refer so frequently to old books and poems that fully half of the manuscript could be attributed to people other than the author. Back in the day, quoting an obscene number of literary pieces proved to everyone that a particular person belonged in the higher echelons of society. Unfortunately, we now have such things as copyright litigation and intellectual property law (being half-facetious, I actually place a great deal of worth in both these things) that seem to make it difficult, if not impossible, to write a novel that reads like an episode of the Gilmore Girls or an “I Love the 80s” marathon (my secret dream). We live, love and learn by the light of quotation; it’s the evidence that we have been collecting the knowledge synthesized by our intellectual forerunners. Hell, it’s practically the entirety of the English major. Quotes are beautiful and badass and I’ll worship them forever on the altar of shared collective intelligence. So long as I have a highlighter, J.K. Rowling and Alexandre Dumas will be doing all my talking for me.

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